By JOHN DE GROOTE
KAPAAU — Skateboarders of all ages took to the ramps of Roots Skate Park Saturday in Kohala for its fifth annual Go Skate Day.
“We want to promote something fun and healthy for families to do together and also to raise awareness that we are building a skate park in Kohala,” Roots Advocates for Youth founder Richey Riggs said. “This is an extended family for us. Having all these kids out here is a blessing.”
The day was kicked off with a skate parade down Akoni Pule Highway and down into Kamehameha Park. After, dozens of skaters gathered at the park for a multiple-division skate competition.
“Events like these play a big role in changing the impressions people have of skateboarding,” said professional skateboard veteran George Orton, who was on hand for the festivities. “Look at the kids smiling and the dads holding their kids while they are skating. People are beginning to see it can be a family thing.”
Riggs’ organization was given nearly a quarter-acre for the skate park and has been raising funds relentlessly since then to make its vision a reality.
“We are trying to keep the momentum going with our fundraising efforts,” Riggs said. “Our goal is to have competitions at skate parks all over the island and have professionals come here.”
The park is only in its first phase, but the Roots organization hopes to expand the park to a 15,000- to 18,000-square-foot facility with a roof and solar lighting.
Orton, a San Clemente, Calif., resident, has decades of experience in skateboarding and has traveled all over the globe to spread the culture of skateboarding. His expertise helped people such as Riggs over the hurdles that building a skate park presents.
“What has been started here is incredible,” Orton said. “There are a lot of doors that we need to knock on, but it can be done. As the snowball begins to roll it will pick up speed and support will come.”
Having been around the sport since the ’70s — before the days of Tony Hawk or the X-Games — has given Orton a viewpoint that few can provide and that many of the people making decisions can respect.
“I started off on steel wheels and would ride down in Huntington Beach (Calif.) when the sport was really getting big,” Orton said. “I know there is a lot of resistance, but people can change the way they think about skateboarding — I have seen it.”
Both Riggs and Orton stress that having the park will keep at-risk youth off the streets and give kids who many not necessarily fit into the classic team sports something to do.
“Some kids may not respond to team sports like football or baseball,” Orton said. “What is better to teach the lesson of getting back up, brushing yourself off and trying again than skateboarding? Take a kid to a skate park and put a board under them and it may completely change their outlook on life.”
For the final vision for the skate park to become a reality, it will take a significant amount of money, but through teamwork Orton knows it’s possible.
“Why would you take away anything that puts a smile on a kid’s face?” Orton said. “There’s no one person in front of the other — just people side-by-side making the whole world a happier place.”
Those interested in helping the park can donate at the group’s website skate4roots.wordpress.com.
Email John De Groote at firstname.lastname@example.org.